“Would you give me the honor of letting me get to know you better?” My question hung there nervously, awaiting her response. I told her that I didn’t want to yet put the pressure of “dating” on us, because she had been hurt in her last relationship, and she needed time to warm up to me. At the same time, I was telling her as clear as I could that I was romantically interested in her. Would she let me try to win her?
She started telling me about her last relationship, and told a story that must have gone about five minutes. I sat there, a nervous shiver, trying to figure out the meaning of her story. I just wanted to know if she was going to give this rookie a chance. Finally, an answer.
“So yes, I would like to get to know you better.”
And all the angels sang hallelujah!
But what did it mean?
“You’re probably wondering,” I said, “what does ‘getting to know you better’ mean?” I gave it my best shot, kind of making it up as I said it. It could mean that we’re not “dating,” I said, but…we could still go on dates. We wouldn’t have to call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, but friends would know that we were a couple. Or something.
Basically, I wanted to put a “name” on this thing that we were doing. That way she wouldn’t be left guessing about my intentions. She was emotionally fragile, and I thought this could give at least some definition to the beginnings of a relationship, while at the same time giving her space. After a few months of getting to know her in social settings, I liked her a lot, and I wanted to be clear with her about where we stood with each other.
So how’d that work out?
About one month later, we were sitting in Wendy’s at midnight, after a magical night of going to a concert and dancing with friends. The attraction between us was electric, like two magnets finding each other. For more than a month, we had been going on dates. I was starting to win her trust, and man, did I feel honored. So I asked her a question that by now seemed natural: would you give me the honor of being your boyfriend? She said yes, and we were on our way to learning even more about each other.
“Take it slow,” I’ve heard a lot of people say about relationships, and I guess you could say that’s what I was trying to do with the pre-dating, “getting to know you better” thing. And even after we started officially dating, taking it slow is something we tried do all through our relationship. Basically, we were trying to do dating honestly and intentionally.
It’s interesting: even though we got engaged only one year after dating, there was a slowness to that one year. For instance, we didn’t rush into sex, because we figured that a healthy sexual life would follow naturally from a healthy emotional bond birthed in dating and secured by the Ultimate Commitment (marriage). We didn’t “test drive the car” by living together, but through the process of intentional dating, we were definitely checking each other out, sizing each other up. I didn’t know how she preferred to put the toilet paper roll on; but I did find out about her character, and how she thought about commitment and marriage. She didn’t know how I was in bed; but I can assure that she was assessing my ability to emotionally connect with her (I struggled with that one).
The pressure to rush relationships—and especially to rush into sex—is real, and it is strong. At the same time, there is also a tendency to let relationships go unnamed: to be practically dating and to be having sex without knowing “who we are as a couple.”
But who says we have to give in to those pressures? Who says that we can’t do things differently? Just because it seems like “everybody else is doing it” does not mean that I have to do it, does not mean that you have to do it. We can do things differently.
And there is a different way of doing things: honest dating. In honest dating, I’m not getting to know a woman so that I can get her in bed, or to score social points with my buddies. In honest dating, both people are honest with their bodies and with their hearts: they are getting to know each other better with the intention of figuring out if this relationship has the potential for a lifelong commitment.
Dating—real, honest dating—does not have to go the way of the dinosaur. Last I checked, a lot of people want honesty in sex and in love; a lot of people want to attract the person with whom they can spend a lifetime and build a family. So, I say, let’s just go ahead and be different: let’s take back dating for our generation.